California is trying to pass a law that prohibits the secondary school day from starting before 8:30 a.m. Citing research on the effects of sleep deprivation, the legislature contends that such a change would benefit children.

While few would obstruct a child’s access to a more effective learning environment, the scope of the proposed redesign and the effect it’ll have on parent and teacher schedules is creating controversy. In the end, a unified solution seems hard to achieve, primarily because a redesign of a government system is — historically and now — challenging.

From a revenue-generation standpoint to serving the public good, governments and government systems face unique redesign obstacles. Still, the qualities that create such obstacles and distinguish these processes also position governments for unique and fruitful possibilities.

Sifting through the layers of government redesign

Even though the government is more insulated and has a slower response to the outside world than businesses do, an organization redesign that focuses on revenue generation suffers from the convoluted nature of its operations.

On the implementation side, for example, a redesign of the U.S. government would be difficult because it has operated under a cash deficit for five decades — $438 billion just two years ago — which would make sifting through the diversified and sometimes conflicting interests, from healthcare to manufacturing, a convoluted process. Moreover, politicians often responsible for instituting the redesign are vulnerable to public opinions and concerns, and many political policies are bound to legacy practices.

On the effect side, comprehensive support for innovation can be challenging to attain when considering the disruptive nature of a redesign. Government workers, while smart and highly effective, often don’t worry about costs or the organization model’s DNA, making a redesign a poisoned chalice. This insularity makes trying to introduce and foster a revenue-generating mindset very difficult.

The need to revolutionize thinking

Many government agencies can see money as “arriving” without correlating work done with funds received. This mentality makes the concept of revenue generation an anathema and contributes to an operation model that gets stuck in unprofitability.

For example, Child Protective Services operates in segments: Users must access the family court system, the district attorney’s office, and CPS case workers. We proposed doing a beta test and reconfiguring the delivery of services by having a functional team represented by each department and jurisdiction manage all local regions.

Creating a more seamless experience would’ve enabled greater access to those services and streamlined the revenue system because the budget wouldn’t have had to account for interdepartmental communication. But our proposal was rejected because of the lack of vision such an ingrained mentality can cultivate.

3 ways to attain a revenue-generating government model

These three practices can help stimulate redesign:

1. Collaborate and coordinate.

Appointed officials and stakeholders, given the vulnerability of their positions, can have a natural tendency to protect, retract, and control. But redesigning an operation model behind closed doors not only sets up that model for failure, but it also limits its innovativeness because of the tendency toward myopic thinking.

2. Clearly define expectations.

Because the government’s purpose is different from private industry, even if a government organization is revenue-generating, that organization must be very clear about what happens to that money. For instance, when the U.K.’s National Nuclear Laboratory was redesigned, the government established clear expectations by allowing it to invest any revenue.

3. Embrace hybrid models.

When each agency has a different staff and management structure, the agencies can never operate as one team. Government agencies need to be open to innovation, because being less burdened by not being completely beholden to the whims of a larger system means they have the flexibility to combat dynamic political and corporate environments.

The government isn’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean it can’t evolve. A revenue-generating operating model benefits the public inasmuch as it does the organizations. It takes money to provide services, and it takes progressive thinking to design a model effective in the short term and the long term.

Mark LaScola is founder and managing principal of ON THE MARK. In business for 27 years, OTM is a global leader in collaborative organization design and business transformation. Mark’s passion for collaborative business transformation sits at the heart of OTM, supported by pragmatism, systems thinking, and belief in people.